Why we need to start talking about positive consent

Pip talks about why we should have more open conversations in our relationships

Written by Pip Keogh


Consent is a word you have hopefully been hearing more lately. Here at home, you may have heard disconcerting stories from our own campuses about alleged ‘revenge porn’ rings and more positive actions like the piloting of mandatory ‘consent classes’. If you haven’t been hearing about any of these events, then all the more reason that we need to have this conversation.

Continuing the conversation

We have a duty to ourselves, to our young people, and the countless survivors of sexual violence to talk about consent. It should not be something you ignore “til it happens to you.” Consent is everyone’s responsibility. It is not about sitting down and having ‘the talk.’ It’s about having lots of talks and continuing the conversation.

So what does the ‘consent conversation’ look like? In reality, it’s simple. We have conversations about sex everyday and don’t even realise. We make comments on women’s clothes as we pass them on the street and passively consume advertisements with half-naked models slathering themselves in baby oil. Consent is about questioning and challenging people on the impact of these actions and images. We sit in bars and talk with our friends about the girl or guy we fancy, commenting on what we would like to do them or have them do to us. 

Empathy and respect for others

Consent is about considering that person with empathy and respect, not as some kind of quest to be conquered. You may be in a long-term relationship or just met someone in a dusty basement bookstore and bonded over your mutual admiration of some obscure Russian author that neither of you have actually ever heard of. Consent is about asking ‘Do you want to…?’ clarifying, and respecting the answer. Sometimes ‘Netflix and Chill’ literally means Netflix and Chill!

We need to be empowered to talk positively about consent. “No” means “No”, end of conversation, there is no argument to that and rightly so. It is positive to say “No”, and equally positive to say “Yes”, whenever you want. Consent is about asking for permission and expressing your desires, what you do and don’t want. Consent is about guaranteeing you control of your body and ensuring you take responsibility for supporting other peoples wishes. Consent is about self-care, well-being, and empathy. Consent is important. Talk about it everyday. Talk about it in class. Talk about it at the water cooler. Talk about it online. Talk about it in bed, in the backseat, or wherever you happen to ‘Netflix and Chill’. Talking is sexy, consent is mandatory.

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